Aaron Gipson

Jefferson is a source of trouble, opportunity

Mon, 09/17/2012 - 9:10am
Cliff Pfenning
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“Accept the challenges so you may feel the exhilaration of victory.”

George S. Patton

“An association of men who will not quarrel with one another is a thing which has never yet existed, from the greatest confederacy of nations down to a town meeting or a vestry.”

Thomas Jefferson

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

“If you cannot punt, do not face fourth-and-long.”

Cliff Pfenning

 

There’s about a million famous quotes that can be referenced to the situation the Jefferson High School football program is facing this week.

The varsity team is 0-3 and lost its league opener on Friday, so reaching the state playoffs is what the players might be focused on. But, the bigger issue is one relating to the sidelines, where the coaches are during a game, or should be, anyway.

Friday, coaches from the team were so verbally abusive of officials during the 30-12 loss to visiting Madison that the head official actually stopped the game with time remaining.

The game outcome had been decided – just 2 minutes, 59 seconds remained – but those few remaining plays are the ones regularly used to get second- and third-team players into a game.

And, they’re part of the 48-minute game. No one there that I talked to had ever been to a game actually ended by officials because of coaches.

It’s a mini-disaster at a school that regularly encounters mini-disasters, both inside and outside its hallways. Jefferson is the lone school in the state where African-American students are a majority of total population. It’s had a constant rotation in its administration and was nearly closed just a couple years ago. Football and basketball home games attract what you might call and police outpost, around the ticket booth because shootings during those events are not uncommon.

So, what to do?

The team. The athletic department. The school. The district athletic department. The school district itself? The state officials association is involved. Even the Oregon School Activities Association has a reason to become involved.

When I tell people about the game’s end, and I was standing 20 feet from where it all went down, the response is consistent: how can adults act like that in front of kids they’re supposed to be setting an example for? In front of the community they represent?

Jefferson has faced and overcome similar challenges in the recent past. In 2009, the team had what amounted to a bench-clearing brawl during a road game at Crater in Central Point. That circumstance got the OSAA involved, and it was caused by players.

The Democrats lost the game and were 0-4 at the time, but won their next nine games to reach the Class 5A state final, where they lost to Hillsboro and Colt Lyerla.

What makes the coaches’ actions more of a challenge is the coaching staff itself – head coach Aaron Gipson had not coached at any level before being hired in late spring to lead the program.

His hiring was seen by more than a few members of the surrounding community as something of a “glam” hire because of his connection to the University of Oregon, where he played from 2002-05. Everything connected to the UO football program these days seems to exude excellence, regardless of the logic that leads to that conclusion.

Gipson played at Oregon, so he must know everything about football, including all the elements of coaching.

Having met him several times as both a community member – my kids can attend Jefferson – and as a reporter, and even watched two of the team’s three games, Gipson is the kind of coach I can see having my son play under:

• Jefferson’s players are well conditioned. In the two games I’ve seen, not one player has left the field from muscular cramping, even though they’ve played in conditions that would lead to that, especially as the key players are on the field virtually the entire game.

• Even under a first-year coach, the Democrats are a competitive team. They don’t have much of a running game, but a lot of teams don’t have much of a passing game. They focus on their strength.

• Jefferson’s players play with a lot of heart, a ton of heart. Despite being the smallest school at the Class 5A level (Jefferson would be one of the smallest schools at Class 4A, too), the Democrats have made the state playoffs six years in a row, and won the Portland Interscholastic League title four of those years. And, of course, they played in the state title game just three years ago.

The team’s big problem currently, is the simple lack of experienced leadership on the football field on game night.

Gipson’s background is in speed and agility training, so it follows the team would be set up to play for a whole game without cramping up.

Gipson’s further training is as a mentor, which is how he got involved with Jefferson in the first place - talking with athletes after a shooting at the school last year. So it figures the players might be able to overcome challenges and play with a lot of heart under his leadership.

Gipson just lacks the kind of coaching experience that would lead him to jump in the face of an assistant and keep them from getting a game halted. It might lead him to better control the flow of a game so that the Democrats might win in a close contest.

I can’t help but think Friday’s game would not have ended the way it did if only the Democrats could punt effectively, as in when it’s fourth and long, they were able to snap the ball to a punter, who kicked it away so that the strategic value of field position was affected.

Jefferson’s defense might not have given up four touchdowns if it was able to defend 60 yards instead of 35. The Demos set up to punt four times, but only got one punt away – the other three were disasters and didn’t involve the ball getting kicked.

In a closer contest, the Jefferson’s assistants would have had more reason to control their emotions to avoid penalties for their actions.

So, what to do?

Suspend coaches? The level of penalties suggests this to some degree.

Fire coaches? There’s at least one assistant who should be removed.

Fire the whole staff?

This would be a significantly harsh move and would affect the players on the field to an unfair level. Gipson and his staff have guided the team to a competitive level, but just had a really bad game.

It was a rough game to watch, too, because of all the penalties. There were a lot of penalties, especially holding calls. Without having kept track, I can’t say how many, but if someone suggested there were 20 holding calls in the game, I wouldn’t doubt it. There were a lot of holding calls, on Madison, too.

Coaches from virtually any team would have been frustrated with the level of penalties called in the game, and the state officials association might look into the game as well.

What Jefferson needs is access to an experienced coach, and not a replacement for Gipson, but simply a mentor. There’s tons of experienced coaches who might step in and sit down with Gipson and his staff and provide some expertise on how to move forward.

“Guys, here’s how we can succeed off the field, and on the field as well.”

The leadership of Portland Public Schools district doesn’t have a strong reputation, but this would be a fabulous way to look at the challenge of Friday night as an opportunity to show a path to success.

There’s corrective action that needs to happen, but there’s guidance that can happen, too.

The Jefferson football program is a chance to showcase what leaders of Portland Public Schools have learned. Let’s see what they’ve learned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jefferson's troubles are another opportunity for PPS

Actions by coaches give leaders a chance to show their leadership skills
Sept. 17, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

“Accept the challenges so you may feel the exhilaration of victory.” 

George S. Patton

“An association of men who will not quarrel with one another is a thing which has never yet existed, from the greatest confederacy of nations down to a town meeting or a vestry.” 

Thomas Jefferson

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

“If you cannot punt, do not face fourth-and-long.”

Cliff Pfenning

 

There’s about a million famous quotes that can be referenced to the situation the Jefferson High School football program is facing this week.

The varsity team is 0-3 and lost its league opener on Friday, so reaching the state playoffs is what the players might be focused on. But, the bigger issue is one relating to the sidelines, where the coaches are during a game, or should be, anyway.

Friday, coaches from the team were so verbally abusive of officials during the 30-12 loss to visiting Madison that the head official actually stopped the game with time remaining.

The game outcome had been decided – just 2 minutes, 59 seconds remained – but those few remaining plays are the ones regularly used to get second- and third-team players into a game.

And, they’re part of the 48-minute game. No one there that I talked to had ever been to a game actually ended by officials because of coaches.

It’s a mini-disaster at a school that regularly encounters mini-disasters, both inside and outside its hallways. Jefferson is the lone school in the state where African-American students are a majority of total population. It’s had a constant rotation in its administration and was nearly closed just a couple years ago. Football and basketball home games attract what you might call and police outpost, around the ticket booth because shootings during those events are not uncommon.

So, what to do?

The team. The athletic department. The school. The district athletic department. The school district itself? The state officials association is involved. Even the Oregon School Activities Association has a reason to become involved.

When I tell people about the game’s end, and I was standing 20 feet from where it all went down, the response is consistent: how can adults act like that in front of kids they’re supposed to be setting an example for? In front of the community they represent?

Jefferson has faced and overcome similar challenges in the recent past. In 2009, the team had what amounted to a bench-clearing brawl during a road game at Crater in Central Point. That circumstance got the OSAA involved, and it was caused by players.

The Democrats lost the game and were 0-4 at the time, but won their next nine games to reach the Class 5A state final, where they lost to Hillsboro and Colt Lyerla.

What makes the coaches’ actions more of a challenge is the coaching staff itself – head coach Aaron Gipson had not coached at any level before being hired in late spring to lead the program.

His hiring was seen by more than a few members of the surrounding community as something of a “glam” hire because of his connection to the University of Oregon, where he played from 2002-05. Everything connected to the UO football program these days seems to exude excellence, regardless of the logic that leads to that conclusion.

Gipson played at Oregon, so he must know everything about football, including all the elements of coaching.

Having met him several times as both a community member – my kids can attend Jefferson – and as a reporter, and even watched two of the team’s three games, Gipson is the kind of coach I can see having my son play under:

• Jefferson’s players are well conditioned. In the two games I’ve seen, not one player has left the field from muscular cramping, even though they’ve played in conditions that would lead to that, especially as the key players are on the field virtually the entire game.

• Even under a first-year coach, the Democrats are a competitive team. They don’t have much of a running game, but a lot of teams don’t have much of a passing game. They focus on their strength.

• Jefferson’s players play with a lot of heart, a ton of heart. Despite being the smallest school at the Class 5A level (Jefferson would be one of the smallest schools at Class 4A, too), the Democrats have made the state playoffs six years in a row, and won the Portland Interscholastic League title four of those years. And, of course, they played in the state title game just three years ago.

The team’s big problem currently, is the simple lack of experienced leadership on the football field on game night.

Gipson’s background is in speed and agility training, so it follows the team would be set up to play for a whole game without cramping up.

Gipson’s further training is as a mentor, which is how he got involved with Jefferson in the first place - talking with athletes after a shooting at the school last year. So it figures the players might be able to overcome challenges and play with a lot of heart under his leadership.

Gipson just lacks the kind of coaching experience that would lead him to jump in the face of an assistant and keep them from getting a game halted. It might lead him to better control the flow of a game so that the Democrats might win in a close contest.

I can’t help but think Friday’s game would not have ended the way it did if only the Democrats could punt effectively, as in when it’s fourth and long, they were able to snap the ball to a punter, who kicked it away so that the strategic value of field position was affected.

Jefferson’s defense might not have given up four touchdowns if it was able to defend 60 yards instead of 35. The Demos set up to punt four times, but only got one punt away – the other three were disasters and didn’t involve the ball getting kicked.

In a closer contest, the Jefferson’s assistants would have had more reason to control their emotions to avoid penalties for their actions.

So, what to do?

Suspend coaches? The level of penalties suggests this to some degree.

Fire coaches? There’s at least one assistant who should be removed.

Fire the whole staff?

This would be a significantly harsh move and would affect the players on the field to an unfair level. Gipson and his staff have guided the team to a competitive level, but just had a really bad game.

It was a rough game to watch, too, because of all the penalties. There were a lot of penalties, especially holding calls. Without having kept track, I can’t say how many, but if someone suggested there were 20 holding calls in the game, I wouldn’t doubt it. There were a lot of holding calls, on Madison, too.

Coaches from virtually any team would have been frustrated with the level of penalties called in the game, and the state officials association might look into the game as well.

What Jefferson needs is access to an experienced coach, and not a replacement for Gipson, but simply a mentor. There’s tons of experienced coaches who might step in and sit down with Gipson and his staff and provide some expertise on how to move forward.

“Guys, here’s how we can succeed off the field, and on the field as well.”

The leadership of Portland Public Schools district doesn’t have a strong reputation, but this would be a fabulous way to look at the challenge of Friday night as an opportunity to show a path to success.

There’s corrective action that needs to happen, but there’s guidance that can happen, too.

The Jefferson football program is a chance to showcase what leaders of Portland Public Schools have learned. Let’s see what they’ve learned.

 

Madison grinds out an ugly victory

Rushing game pushes Senators to first win in game called off by officials
Sept. 14, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

An inspired halftime coaching move helped the Madison Senators to their first win of the high school football season Friday night, although the game is certain to be remembered for the time of the final score ahead of the score itself.

Senior Charles Riga, replaced as quarterback at halftime, scored twice as a tailback and led the Senators to a 30-12 victory at Jefferson in the Portland Interscholastic League opener for both teams.

The Senators, who trailed 12-6 at the half, outscored Jefferson 24-0 in the second half and were closing out the win when officials abruptly ended the game with 2:59 remaining due to consistent abuse by Jefferson's assistant coaches.

Jefferson racked up more than 200 yards in penalties, including 95 in the third quarter alone, which led one assistant to tell the four-man officiating crew "you're the worst officials I've ever seen" at least 10 times. Midway through that tirade, the game was shut down.

Madison moved to 1-2 with a home game against winless Benson next week.

"This is a big win for us, one we needed," Riga said. "I can feel this win starting us on a streak, and we're not going to stop winning."

Jefferson dropped to 0-3 with a road game against winless Cleveland on tap.

The decision to call the game and actions by assistants to Jefferson coach Aaron Gipson, who is a first-year coach, are likely to attract significant fallout in the coming week. Jefferson's assistant coaches include Alundis Brice, Arthur Williams, Jason Scott as well as former University of Oregon standouts Rashad Bauman and Rasuli Webster, although not all were present Friday.

Despite the game's end, the Senators made a considerable case for being a contender for the PIL title - and certain spot in the Class 5A playoffs - with their running game, powered by Riga, who had a hand in all four Madison touchdowns.

Riga moved the Senators across the field within their run-based option offense in the first half, and scored on a seven-yard run to tie the score at 6-all in the second quarter. But, the Senators fumbled away one possesion at the Jefferson 2, and couldn't take advantage of another opportunity with a drive that started deep in Demos' territory.

At halftime, Madison coach Adam Skyles moved Riga to tailback and inserted junior Schuller Rettig at quarterback, where he had practiced as the starter all week while Riga battled a cold. The Senators took the opening kickoff of the third quarter and drove for a score and the lead when Riga hit senior Austin Powers for a 24-yard score on an option pass. Madison took a two-score lead when Riga finished off a 48-yard drive with a one-yard run with 1:25 left in the third quarter. When Jefferson was whistled for being offside on the extra point, Skyles opted for the two-point try, which worked for a 21-12 lead.

A safety on a botched Jefferson punt, and a 20-yard Riga run in the fourth quarter closed out the scoring.

"Our line stepped up and got the push we needed," Madison senior Jacob Martin said. "This shows that we're one of the most dominant teams in the PIL."

By then, the Democrats were on their way to a loss that will not soon be forgotten, although the players performed quite valiantly.

Jefferson drove for a score on the opening possession of the game and added another score late in the half when Deven Jackson hooked up with Jamartae Brown from eight yards out.

The Democrats were solid on defense in the first half, led by senior nose gaurd Jalean Webb, who finished off the first scoring drive with a one-yard run. Webb, though, suffered a minor foot injury in the third quarter, which caused him to consistenly leave the field.

Jefferson set up Madison with good field position throughout the game through the simple lack of a punting game. The Demos were effectively forced to go on fourth down not matter the down and distance because it could not convert the snap to the punter. Jefferson tried for a first down twice inside its 35 despite needing 17 yards on both occasions. Jackson was sacked on one of the plays and called for intentional grounding on the other.

The consistent flow of the game, which included a significant number of penalties against Madison, proved too much for Jefferson's assistant coaches, at least one of whom was nearly ejected early in the fourth quarter before Gipson talked that situation out of happening.

 

 

Jefferson turns a corner toward Eugene

Aaron Gipson gets his first taste of leadership on a sideline
August 28, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

It's Thursday afternoon, just eight days before the start of the high school football season, and the Jefferson Democrats are going through a series of scrimmages.

Offense vs. Defense, with pride on the line for progress or lack of it.

The Demos suit up a full line-up on offense and defense, but there's only three extra players on the sideline.

The roster for one of the storied programs in Portland is thin. And, coach Aaron Gipson, the school's first-year coach, is nowhere to be found; lost in the paperwork that involves coaches at the high school level.

When he emerges from the school's locker room, he sits far away from the practice, observing. Almost hiding.

Only a few moments go by, though, before the Police Activities League team of seventh and eighth graders arrive wearing uniforms with JEFFERSON on the front arrive. Gipson moves to show them around and then walks with them to the practice field located behind the school to secure gear.

Gipson, a decorated cornerback at the University of Oregon from 2002-05, has thrown himself into the project of not only leading the school's varsity team, but building a program to support it.

"It feels like home for me," he says. "The energy here is infectious. I can tell how much the kids are yearning for a leader; to be pushed, to be guided.
"I want to be a part of that."

At 28, Gipson is among the youngest high school head coaches in the state. He is taking over a program in transition at a school in an equal amount of transition. And, he's developing a unique style that seems focused on mentoring as much as coaching as a school that could easily play at the Class 4A level.
With his first season as a coach at any level looming, Gipson says he'll judge the season on the results he sees within his players, not by numbers on a scoreboard.

"I don't look at any pressure," he says. "When you put pressure on yourself, then it's all about winning, then that's what you're about.
"I'm focused on the kids and the journey with the community."


PROGRAM TRANSITION

Gipson became Jefferson's coach in late spring, after the school's athletic director, Mitch Whitehurst, opted not to renew coach Anthony Stoudamire's contract after six years as head coach. A short time later, the school district removed Whitehurst as athletic director. Stoudamire flirted with legal action against the district, but was then hired to coach at Benson, which has won just three games combined the past two seasons. The Benson job went unfilled for six months.

Stoudamire had plenty of reason to be offended when he was removed as Jefferson's coach. Not only had he built a successful program, which won four Portland Interscholastic League titles in six seasons, but he had supported the Police Activities League program that extended to the third/fourth-grade level. He had donated many thousands of dollars from his pocket, too.

Under Stoudamire, the Democrats won at least one playoff game in five seasons, and reached the Class 5A state final in 2009. Only Wilson, with a first-round win in 2003, has a playoff victory from among the current Class 5A schools in the past decade.

Most of Stoudamire's staff moved with him to Benson.

The football opening came at a unique time for Jefferson, which was on the verge of being closed due to low numbers and simple lack of direction just a couple years ago. With a direction needed, the district retooled the school to fit into the program at neighboring Portland Community College. Students can earn an Associates Degree while attending Jefferson. The district quietly appointed vice principal Margaret Calvert, who had been the girls basketball coach at Grant, as Jefferson's principal last year, and Grant's athletic director Jacque Sage moved to Jefferson to replace Whitehurst. With the football coaching vacancy offering a chance to promote the school's new vibrant outlook through one simple hire, it chose Gipson.

"He has a lot of connections to the football community," Sage says. "He has a lot of experience at the college level helping students achieve their athletic and educational pursuits."

Gipson says he wasn't interested in being a head coach until players he had been mentoring for much of the past year, recruited him to apply. He got involved with some students following a shooting following a sporting event, and several turned out to be athletes. After a short while, he applied.

"I believe the best jobs are the ones that come to you," he says, adding he had gotten to know school administrator Donald Dixon at the same time. "I wasn't looking to be a head coach, but the kids lost their coach and then the calls started coming."

Gipson has a solid background in the game. He grew up in Southern California and was skilled enough to earn a scholarship to Oregon in the post-Joey Harrington era. Not only did he arrive on campus, he earned a starting job as a freshman at cornerback in 2002. In 2005, he led the nation in interceptions, which helped the Ducks advance to the Holiday Bowl - the team's third bowl game in his four years there.

Since graduating with a degree in sociology in 2006, he has bounced around with various jobs, including work in insurance, modeling and as a color commentator for high school football radio broadcasts the past two years. Today he works as a model through a talent agency as well as speed and agility coach through the Metro Baseball Academy. He lives in North Portland, is single with a daughter who will soon turn two, and continues to mentor young men in the community. And, he has a unique taste in music.

"I may be the only black man in America who likes country music," he says. "Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, I love 'em."

Beyond his lack of coaching experience, Gipson's hire seemed questionable because of his lack of connection within the community, which he has noted.

"As I've gone around the community, I have heard things like 'if you didn't grow up here, you can't coach here'," he says. "But, it's football. It's Xs and Os. The people I have on board, the organizations they've been part of, you see how they can put things together at the highest level. I just try and make it the best atmosphere possible."

Gipson's hire is the kind of dramatic move school officials, even the district, might have felt it needed to promote its new direction to the students it wants to reach.

"He's built a lot of relationships in the athletic community - people know him," Sage says. "There's still some pieces to iron out organizationally, but he has a great coaching staff.
"Everyone has to start somewhere."


A COACHING STYLE

When Gipson got hired, he immediately looked at his network of friends and got assistants with connections to Oregon within days. Former Ducks Rashad Bauman and Rasuli Webster jumped on board as did Alundis Brice, a National Football League veteran who Gipson had met at a golf tournament. John Neal, a longtime defensive guru who coached the secondary at Oregon, has been helpful as well.

A staff with name assistants has impressed the school and football players equally.

"His assistants, they've got rings," says senior Isaac Bell, who's father Aaron, is one of Benson's High's storied alums in basketball. "They've got rings as big and my knuckle."

What he lacks in coaching background, he makes up for with the infectious attitude of a mentor, someone who can turn a failure into a challenge and opportunity for success.
When he brought his team together for the first time in summer, he had the players walk around the school and pick up garbage.

On Friday, Gipson had his team watch the movie "Rudy."

Gipson says he's committed to being coach at the school for at least three years.

Whatever failures might happen on the field this fall - they'll only be the first chapter in a three-year building process, which gives him plenty of time to create success.

Shortly after being hired, Gipson was a guest via phone on the daily radio program hosted by The Oregonian's John Canzano, who lauded him for his ability to respond to challenges such as his role in the Oregon defense. After starting as a freshman, Gipson's role diminished to that of a rover on passing downs before he rallied back to a starting position as a senior.

Gipson's coaching style seems highly connected to his background as a mentor. He rarely barks out comments and has delegated most of the actual position coaching to assistants. His specific role is focused on speed, agility and cardiovascular training.

The lack of flash on the field will extend to the game plan, he says, with the team's offense consisting of a small number of basic plays meant to highlight the opportunity for success.

On the field, he does not stand out as the head coach.

The Jefferson players admire his low-key style.

"On the field, he'll get in your face," says Deven Jackson, a senior quarterback. "But, off the field, he's a cool guy. He loves to joke around."

"It's nice that he's younger," says senior Jamartae Brown. "He can demonstrate things he wants to show you, so you know how it's supposed to go."

Gipson seems prepared to take the season's challenges with the long-term understanding that the success of the program won't be based on numbers on a scoreboard, but numbers on the field in terms of players. Jefferson's academic retooling has it primed to essentially function as a private school within a primarily low-income area. Jefferson's football program is one of the top marketing tools the school has to attract students, who will then be guided into the college prep program.

Gipson will have the entire school year to work his way farther into the community to reach and recruit students to the school and build the football program. With a continued presence in the PAL program, some high-profile, Oregon-connected football camps and a bit of marketing support from the school administration within surrounding elementary schools, it's easy to see Gipson as the person to build a program and prove himself a savvy hire.

Of course, the future savviness involves followthrough on a number of fronts, and Gipson already has a lot of fronts without the football team.

"He's very busy," Sage says. "He has a lot of things going on."

In addition to his role as a model often for catalog work, athletic trainer and mentor, he is a frequent guest on radio programs, a schedule that gets worked into the Demos system. On Friday, Jefferson's practice ended at 2 p.m., at which point Gipson called in to be a guest on a radio talk show hosted by former Duck Josh Wilcox. Gipson's assistants are frequently absent due to their commitments, and he missed the mandatory league coaches meeting.

Gipson is tackling these challenges and others involved with being a first-year head coach by focusing on the optimism and adventure that lies ahead. All coaches have jobs and commitments that have to be worked into their schedules, and having a full schedule is a good way to promote personal success to the student athletes in your charge.

He says he comfortable starting his coaching career as a head coach, too.

"I'm ready to be a head coach," he says. "I'm learning the finer things of administration, which is different, and challenging. But we've got a great AD here I can feel it's the start of a phenomenal relationship."


THE YEAR BEGINS

The challenges that go along with building a program, from finding assistant coaches, recruiting players and community members, scouting opponents, promoting the program throughout practices with a catchy slogan emblazoned onto shirts, even videotaping practices; Gipson is going through it all as the leader for the first time, which puts the Democrats at a competitive disadvantage before the season begins.

But, that's not true for every program with a first-year coach. It's not true at Woodburn.

When Jefferson plays host to Woodburn on Friday, it'll be a match-up of first-year head coaches. As it turns out, they're former teammates, too.

Nick Federico, who played at Oregon alongside Gipson, took over the Woodburn program in spring after seven seasons as an assistant at Cascade, a position he delved into directly after leaving Oregon. Federico is taking over a program at a school where his mother, Geri, is principal, which boosts his community connections. And, Woodburn begins the season with a solid chance of reaching the state playoffs because it plays in the Mid-Willamette Conference, which had six of the top 15 teams in the final regular season Class 5A state rankings last year.

Woodburn finished at No. 15 before losing a play-in round game at No. 5 Bend, 33-23. Jefferson, the PIL champion, finished at No. 21, and beat No. 27 Parkrose in its play-in round game. The Demos then lost 54-0 at Mountain View, which later won the state title.

Because the other five PIL teams won just one non-conference game, the entire league suffered and those five schools: Benson, Cleveland, Franklin, Madison and Wilson, finished in the bottom five spots among the 37 Class 5A schools. The top teams in the state now don't even want to schedule teams from the PIL, which is disastrous for the league because the state's rankings system puts such a high value on games between quality opponents, whether they're league or non-league games or even wins or losses. Losing to a highly-ranked team has more value than beating a team buried deep in the rankings, and the play-in round of the state playoff system got refined this year to include only the top 24 teams, not the top 32.

It's very likely that only the PIL champion will finish in the top 24 and participate in the play-in round.

Woodburn, which won the boys soccer state title last year, has a community that is hungry to win and be competitive for a playoff victory, which would be the school's first in its history.

Jefferson's community has expected wins in the past, but it's community impact is negligible. The neighborhood is far more attached to the boys basketball program, which this summer saw graduates Terrence Jones and Terrence Ross selected in the first round of the NBA Draft.  

Even with a flashy new head coach, Jefferson's football team is likely to have a smaller crowd supporting it than Woodburn on Friday.

The game, though, will open the window of opportunity Gipson and his assistants have available to attract attention and build a community. But it might only be open for a short while - perhaps one game, especially if the on-field results are significantly lopsided, which is not uncommon in the PIL.

Last season, Benson fielded an inexperienced line-up and gave up 60 points or more in all five of its non-league games. Jefferson has a line-up that appears equally inexperienced, with sophomores as candidates to start at several positions.

With one or two blowout losses, Gipson could very easily be viewed as a coach hired because of his name and connections rather than proven ability - perhaps even by his own players.
It's all part of the drama that makes him perhaps the most interesting story within high school football this season.  

Gipson says he's ready for the challenges of the season and will tackle them in a manner that will promote the school's best qualities.

"If we end up 0-9, but the kids are showing up on time, they're getting 3.0 grades instead of 1.9 and they're being good citizens in the community, then I will have no qualms about the season," he says. "It's all about these men being better people, better young men.
"Wins and losses don't tell you anything about someone's character. Winning is just a part of the process."

 

Week 2 heats up with Grant Bowl game

Neighborhood clash among the state's top games
Sept. 5, 2012

Two schools with perhaps the state's longest-running rivalry, will meet Friday in the annual home game Grant High plays on the city field just outside its doors.

Grant and Jefferson, located just 40 blocks apart, suit up for a 4 p.m. game as the state moves into the second week of action.

The rivalry between the Northeast Portland schools extends to 1924 when Grant opened its doors. Combined, the two schools have won or tied for nine state titles.

Both teams lost their openers Friday: Class 6A Grant at Centennial, 49-42, and Class 5A Jefferson at home to Woodburn, 21-14, in coach Aaron Gipson's first game as head coach.

In other highlight games, Central Catholic travels to Eugene to play Sheldon in a rematch of a Class 6A semifinal from December. Sheldon won 19-8 at Jeld-Wen Field, but lost the title game the following week to Lake Oswego.

In other Class 6A highlight games, Roseburg is at Sprague, Westview travels to South Medford, Lake Oswego visits Centennial and Tualatin plays at Southridge.

In Class 5A, Sherwood is at Marist in a Class 5A game among teams that reached the semifinals last fall. Marist fell to Mountain View in the semifinals, a week before Sherwood lost 14-13 to the Cougars in the title game.

Also Friday, Mountain View takes on visiting Century of the Class 6A Pacific Conference. Sept. 14, Mountain View plays host to Class 6A Sprague.

North Portland's Roosevelt High will show off its refurbished track Friday when it plays host to Gladstone of Class 4A.

At Class 4A, defending champion LaSalle of Milwaukie is at Douglas, while Klamath Union travels to Ridgeview of Redmond, which will be playing its first game against an Oregon team after dispatching Medicine Hat, Alberta, 53-6 Friday. Also, LaGrande, which lost its opener 58-14 to Class 3A Nyssa, is set to play in Sacramento, Calif., on Saturday against the Hiram Johnson Warriors.

In Class 3A, Cascade Christian of Medford, which beat defending state champion Santiam Christian handily in its opener, plays at Class 4A Henley, which lost its opener in overtime to Class 5A Crook County. Also, Rainier is host to Horizon Christian of Tualatin.

At Class 2A, defending champion Gold Beach plays host to Regis in a rematch of a quarterfinal from last year. Also, Weston-McEwen, a semifinalist from last year, is one of three schools at the class set to play teams from Washington.

And, at Class 1A, defending champion Perrydale, which lost to Camas Valley last week in a rematch of the 2011 final, plays host Friday to Siletz Valley, which won its opener 80-20. Camas Valley plays host to Butte Falls on Saturday.

 

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